Why We Must Develop People and not Entrepreneurs

Economic growth is supposed to deliver prosperity. Higher incomes should mean better choices, richer lives, an improved quality of life for us all. That at least is the conventional wisdom. But things haven’t always turned out that way.

An even stronger finding is that the requirements of prosperity go way beyond material sustenance. Prosperity has vital social and psychological dimensions. To do well is in part about the ability to give and receive love, to enjoy the respect of your peers, to contribute useful work, and to have a sense of belonging and trust in the community. In short, an important component of prosperity is the ability to participate meaningfully in the life
of society.

This view of prosperity has much in common with Amartya Sen’s vision of development as ‘capabilities for flourishing’.

The ‘iron cage of consumerism’ is a system in which no one is free.

It’s an anxious, and ultimately a pathological system. But at one level it works. The system remains economically viable as long as liquidity is preserved and consumption rises. It collapses when either of these stalls.

Prosperity without growth?
The transition to a sustainable economy
Professor Tim Jackson
Economics Commissioner
Sustainable Development Commission

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  1. people power is the way of future. Self-activated, and self-individuated. Creative, imaginative, skilful. These are the types of people that will find solutions to currently intractable problems. Tools for the mind is what is needed.

    • yep, power to the people, agree with that totally! I work to do just that, bringing internet access to people gives them more power if they choose (or want) to use it. I struggle because government still thinks 2meg is enough to do what people want to do, but it gives me a focus from which I won’t be turned…
      this blog is an example of someone using the power of the internet for good huh?

      • Web can definitley give people more power. No doubt. However if we are not clear about how best to use it in own self interest it can be as much a force for bad as good. LIke so much else in life it is a double edged sword.

  2. Fragger says:

    Get Rid of the Poodle! A Call for a Sustainable Economy [Draft]

    “As a poodle may have his hair cut long or his hair cut short, as he may be trimmed with pink ribbons or with blue ribbons, yet he remains the same old poodle, so capitalism may be trimmed with factory laws, tenement laws, divorce laws and gambling laws, but it remains the same old capitalism.” – Daniel De Leon, in his November 2, 1908 Daily People editorial, “Trimming the Poodle”

    “You cannot solve a problem using the same consciousness that created it.” – attributed to Albert Einstein, presumably sometime after 1908


    Change! was the word repeated ad nauseam by both corporate political parties in the United States in the months leading up to the November 2008 elections. Yet, thus far, we have seen little to no change at all.

    This is especially true of our politicians’ approach to our economy. Amid much hand wringing over “zombie” and “vampire” banks, no one seems to be looking at the bigger picture of a Frankenstein economy that is composed of decomposing parts. Incredibly, the Democratic Party that currently controls both houses of Congress and the White House has continued the Bush Administration policy of throwing obscene amounts of tax money arbitrarily at selected corporations in an effort to “stimulate” the economy.

    In fact, this bizarre practice is the culmination of nearly 30 years of “trickle down” economics and centuries of robber baron capitalism. However, this habit of attempting to jolt our Frankenstein economy to life from the top didn’t prevent the recession of the early 1980s. It didn’t prevent the failure of the savings and loan associations – remember them? – in the middle to late 1980s. It didn’t prevent the stock market crash of 1987. It didn’t prevent the recession of the early 1990s. It didn’t prevent the Internet business boom and bust of the later 1990s and early 2000s. It didn’t prevent the real estate boom and bust that some believe is at the root of our current crisis. And it won’t prevent similar crises in the future.

    Clearly, we need real change – not just another change from Democrats back to Republicans, or from Republicans back to Democrats. Even the state capitalism that passes for “socialism” in some societies suffers from the same old, tired, top-down thinking.

    Clearly, we need to change our whole way of looking at and engaging in our economy. We need a sustainable economy – an economy that is powered by our core values of grassroots democracy, social justice, non-violence and ecological wisdom.

    What Is a Sustainable Economy?

    An Economy Powered by Grassroots Democracy

    In the United States and throughout much of the world, many claim to cherish democracy, yet few consider the idea that democracy shouldn’t end at the door to the workplace. Some believe that the dictates of property and ownership, no matter how unsafe, unequal and unfair, must be given an unquestionable supremacy in society in order for democracy to exist.

    Yet, under the Frankenstein economy, we can see how lacking in democracy our society truly is. A handful of people – people who may not even know, understand or care what is wrong with our economy – can make decisions that destroy the livelihoods of millions of workers.

    A sustainable economy will put basic economic decisions and the control of science and technology in the hands of the people. Every one of us will have a voice and a vote in managing our workplace, together with our fellow workers who work to produce the same good or service. We’ll elect our supervisors and managers – our fellow workers whom we recognize as the most experienced and capable in the work that we do. If these supervisors and managers fail to manage the workplace correctly, we, the workers who voted them in, can vote them out, delegating the responsibility to someone else. Management authority will flow from the bottom up instead of from the top down.

    In addition, this sustainable economy will be more efficient, because we’ll manage our own work, and will be able to assess the everyday effectiveness of the way that our work is done. We’ll be able to make necessary changes without having to go through layers of unsympathetic bosses.

    An Economy Powered by Social Justice

    Under the Frankenstein economy, economic exploitation is the underlying injustice that breeds all kinds of other social injustice.

    Extreme poverty and deprivation exist in an economy capable of producing great wealth. Employers and the governments that they control in countries throughout the world use fraud and force to suppress the aspirations of the nations’ working populations. In the United States, we are working longer and harder than ever, with all the personal and family stress that overwork produces. Even though we produce greater amounts of goods and services every year, most of us struggle just to maintain last year’s standard of living. Meanwhile, corporations use science and technology to lower labor costs and increase profits, to the detriment of, rather than for the benefit of, the majority.

    A sustainable economy will guarantee us the full product of our labor, and thus the full benefit of their rising productivity. Every one of us will have the inalienable right to be a working member of the community and receive full compensation for the work that we contribute to the common effort. No one will have the right to profit and enrich him- or herself on the backs of the people who produce the wealth.

    Moreover, our jobs will be secure, because we, not our employers, will own those jobs. Nobody is going to vote to eliminate his or her own source of livelihood unless the community of workers decides that he or she can produce something different that has a greater benefit for the community.

    However, because a sustainable economy will operate as a market-free system, in which we own our own product and distribute it among ourselves on a fair and equitable basis, all the nonproductive jobs required by the irrational market system will be unnecessary. All of us now doing nonproductive work will be able to join in doing useful labor for the improvement of the living standards of all.

    Coordinating our decisions with the rest of the economy – including the educational sector that can teach us new skills – we’ll be able to adjust our jobs to meet the changing needs and wants of society. Our livelihoods will be preserved instead of destroyed, with an added benefit for society as a whole.

    Furthermore, a sustainable economy will direct our science and technology to producing what is most beneficial to the most people, not what is merely the most profitable for a few. As our productivity continues to rise, the hours of work required to produce the goods and services that we need will decrease.

    Work will continue to be an important part of our lives in defining who we are as individuals – but it won’t be the only part.

    With a shorter workweek, we’ll have time to develop our other talents and personal potential. We’ll have the time to be the best parents, students, friends and neighbors that we can be.

    An Economy Powered by Non-Violence

    Under the Frankenstein economy, a few people enrich themselves by taking the lion’s share of the wealth produced by the work of the majority, society is divided into opposing interests, and the result is conflict and strife.

    Employers and the governments that they control wage battle against one another and against us for valuable resources, for control of markets, and for trade advantage. Exploitation breeds destructive oppression, irrational hatreds and war.

    However, we do the actual fighting and dying. We are caught in the middle of these conflicts, suffering the most and gaining the least from them.

    In a sustainable economy, we will work together as a unified community of workers, promoting intelligent cooperation and peace.

    An Economy Powered by Ecological Wisdom

    Under the Frankenstein economy, the air is being made unfit to breathe, industrial pollutants are poisoning the water and land, the earth’s resources are being exhausted, and rising temperatures threaten the very future of civilization.

    A sustainable economy will ensure that resources are used wisely and aren’t wasted. When we’re working for ourselves, we’ll understand the importance of making the right choices when it comes to what to produce and how to produce it.

    The quality as well as the quantity of goods produced must be considered. These goods should be made to last so that they don’t stress the environment by being thrown away and replaced sooner than necessary. This will also reduce energy use and decrease the production of greenhouse gases, by reducing overall production levels.

    How goods are produced is also critical. The time and resources that minimize industrial pollution and waste must be allocated to ensure that we maintain a rational balance between consumption and preserving the environment.

    A sustainable economy will achieve this balance because the purpose of production will be to meet the needs of people, and not to sell ever more merchandise for maximum profit through reckless and unplanned growth.

    How Will We Build a Sustainable Economy?

    Neither the Green Party, nor any other political party, nor a minority faction of workers can impose a sustainable economy on society. A benevolent dictator can’t give it to us. A philanthropic elite can’t grant it. It can only come into existence through the creative, coordinated action of the majority of workers.

    Political Action

    Nonetheless, we need the Green Party to represent and advocate a sustainable economy in the political arena. Through political activity, competing principles and programs rally support and votes, and, by winning a majority, become the ruling principles of society.

    For a sustainable economy to come into existence, we need the Green Party to act in the political arena because existing laws protect and enforce the property interests of employers. If we were to start simply running our workplaces ourselves and assuming ownership of the product of our labor, the police would be called in and we would be arrested for trespassing and theft.

    We need the Green Party to win a majority vote and enact new laws that validate the new system. The legal way would then be open for a peaceful and democratic change in the economics and governance of nations.

    However, the Green Party can’t credibly advocate a sustainable economy if it doesn’t stick to the principles essential to the creation of such a system. Thus, throughout this process, the Green Party must remain true to its four pillars: grassroots democracy, social justice, non-violence and ecological wisdom.

    Likewise, it is important for the Green Party to legislate with the goal of the new system in mind, and not to content itself with merely “trimming the poodle,” as Daniel De Leon put it so aptly in the quote above more than a century ago.

    Economic Action

    As essential as the Green Party will be to the success of a sustainable economy, equally important will be our simultaneous organization in our workplaces.

    Labor union organization will unite us in the economic arena as our organization in the Green Party will unite us in the political arena. Organized labor will realize our economic power as wealth producers, and enable us to challenge the financial power of employers from a position of strength.

    As our strength and confidence grows, we’ll challenge the dictatorial authority of the bosses in our workplaces. We’ll expand our own authority through our elected union representatives and labor councils, thereby creating the representational framework of the coming sustainable economy.

    Thus, when political victory is won at the polls, and the Green Party enacts the legal change to a sustainable economy, we’ll be mentally and organizationally prepared to assume its responsibilities.

    Political and economic action is the one-two punch that will create a sustainable economy.

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